“Capitan!” We make eye contact from across the street. He is heading toward the alley where I am standing around, doing nothing in particular except playing in the perpetual stream of thoughts that runs through a persons mind when they are standing around, doing nothing in particular.
“Hello, my friend,” I yell back. Or something to that effect.
I like his new haircut; it looks good on him. It’s shaved close to the head now. And I wonder if he did it himself or if he went to a barber. He’s soaked. Wet black shorts, wet black sneakers and a wet black t-shirt draped over his shoulders. And as I extend my hand with two cigarettes, we begin what is our customary conversation: he speaks to me in Spanish and I speak to him in English. Thankfully, he knows both languages. I know that I am muy bien and that’s about it. Unless you count what little I learned from Speedy Gonzales.
It’s sad, really. Up through third grade, I studied Arabic. In junior high (or what is now called middle school) and throughout high school, I studied French. In college, I studied German. And when I was first married and suffocating in a small southern town with my ex-wife and ALL of her extended family, I remember finding Russian language instruction tapes in the country library. Anything at all to distract me from that hell. But in all my years, I never studied Spanish. At all. And today, I cannot read, write, or speak in any language with any level of comprehension beyond a toddler.
Water drips from his face. He is smiling as always.
“I’ve been in the water,” he tells me. The word “water” was in English at least.
“You went to the beach?”
“That’s great! It’s good for the soul, for the body.”
More conversation in Spanish and he shuffles away to his milk crate beside the dumpster. Mi amigo.